Vying for a slice of the cake - Empowering working women through one platform

Two websites, one for the working woman and the other started by two men, aim to help couples plan the perfect wedding.
 
Every couple dreams of a fairy tale wedding but that one special night (or even a few days) requires an excruciating amount of planning and money.
 
Weddings can be a big logistical headache, from choosing photographers, picking the ideal venue, caterers, wedding outfits, flowers, gifts, pelamin and cakes to hair, make-up and wedding trinkets. 
 
Some couples are willing to swim in debt forever after for that perfect wedding. According to a news report last year, the cost of an average wedding has soared to above RM50,000, leading some couples to take out personal loans to pay for their special day. 
 
Weddings are the biggest exercise in narcissism, with businesses reeling in millions banking on just that. In Malaysia alone, 300,000 couples tie the knot every year, and local online businesses are vying to snatch a slice of the RM7 billion industry. 
 
There exist several websites that try to bridge the online-offline gap for couples shopping for all their wedding needs. #edGY looks at two online businesses: Wedding.com.my, which claims to be the largest wedding portal, and Planyourwedding.my, a new player on the scene.  
 
 
For Kelvin Leow, Petrina Goh and Stacey Lee, the wedding business is just one slice of a multi-tiered cake. 
 
With Wedding.com.my, they want to create a portal for the working woman that leans towards social interaction — and helps with life planning and offers e-shopping therapy. The plan is to build different platforms that cater to women at different stages of life, namely for weddings, motherhood, family and home planning. 
 
With the internet saturated in often fragmented sources and opinions, not to mention trolls, it’s hard for a woman to know where to look for succinct information. Leow and his team want to provide a platform for women to move from one phase of their lives to the next with ease.
 
“We started out wanting to be a female technology company, to create an [online] environment that is female-friendly. We wanted to empower women entrepreneurs to sell baby products,” says Goh.
 
The team have since kick-started two initiatives, namely Wedding.com.my and Motherhood.com.my.
 
Planning pains
 
Many brides suffer planning pains for their perfect wedding. With their day jobs, they have little time to deal with the devil in the details.
 
“All wedding-related sites today are mostly blogs and reviews but not one combines the social media, visual content and e-commerce. How do we inspire our users and then convert them to buy on our site?” says Leow.
 
To do this, Leow and his team launched Wedding.com.my in September 2013, investing RM250,000. 
 
The website includes 26 different product categories such as wedding dresses, decorations, wedding stationery, gifts and honeymoon packages. Each product is searchable through colour and thematic filters.
 
Earlier this month, Wedding.com.my launched an e-commerce service with its own payment gateway, obviating the tedious process of third-party payment services. It is currently the only local website providing such a combined service, going beyond being a mere recommendation engine. 
 
“We provide [young couples] with a comprehensive solution to find and buy the things they want easily, to plan their wedding at any time, on the same platform,” says Lee.
 
Wedding.com.my has a subscription business model with a minimum annual fee of RM1,000, depending on the type of services provided. The minimum fee requires merchants to set-up and manage their own page. 
 
Accounts and page management services are also provided, depending on the fee. Promotional banners come at extra cost. 
 
There are now about 600 vendors listed on Wedding.com.my, primarily from the Klang Valley, Penang, Ipoh and Johor, in that order. The site has a strict qualifying process for vendors, to help couples choose vendors that are reputable.
 
“We don’t want to be a pasar malam because premium vendors may not want to be associated with a random vendor. We are more pro-couple than pro-merchant, because we know how difficult it is for couples to source for the right vendor. It’s not like they can stage another wedding!” Leow laughs.
 
Complementing their online business is their robust offline acquisition initiatives. They have increased their number of media platforms by partnering with bridal magazines and wedding fair organisers, actively approaching vendors and users personally during wedding fairs.
 
Currently, Wedding.com.my has 100,000 members, about 70,000 fans on Facebook and more than 100,000 followers on Pinterest. 
 
“Our membership base might not in the millions but of the 100,000, they are couples who are really going to get married. [They’re not] merely walking by,” explains Leow.
 
Solidarity with women all over
 
With about 80% of Wedding.com.my’s userbase being female, Leow and team required a strategy to retain their customers. 
 
With Motherhood.com.my, due to launch year-end, Leow hopes to create continuity, or stickiness of the website, from one life-stage to another.
 
Motherhood.com.my is similar to wedding.com.my, in that it inspires new moms to sell stuff online. Currently, the site provides mainly tips and articles to readers.
 
“[Given Malaysian] corporate culture, we want to empower working moms by creating a woman-friendly environment. We may deliberately give working moms preference to help empower them,” says Leow.
 
Leow, Goh and Lee have far-reaching plans for the online female community. They hope to extend their reach throughout Southeast Asia, with a Singapore and Jakarta presence scheduled for mid-2015. Their immediate plans include achieving top-of-mind awareness among online women users in the region between 18 to 40 years old.
 
“We hope to be Malaysia’s number one site for women and to expand regionally. But we will localise [our content and services] because weddings are culturally sensitive. We aim to be an industry leader in Southeast Asia,” says Leow. 
 

 

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